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Sunday, June 4, 2023

Islamic clerics demand they be consulted before quarantining Muslims in Maharashtra

An Islamic religious college, Jamia Arabia Islamia’s Nagpur branch secretary Mohammad Abdul Aziz Khan has written a letter to Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray and Speaker Nana Patole asking them to take the Muslim Ulema (clerics) into confidence and hold discussions with maulvis before quarantining Muslims who have come into contact with those affected by Covid-19 virus.

As per reports, a large number of citizens from Nagpur’s Satrangipura and Mominpura areas have been quarantined following the corona pandemic. The letter further states that self-quarantine be recommended instead of sealing off an entire area. Khan has said that the government should take into consideration the recommendations of ‘Muslim NGOs’ and maulvis before taking any decision in this regard. He has also said that not enough care has been taken to provide food supplies to those observing the Ramzan fasts and has requested the government take steps in this regard.

Such recommendations are being made at a time when news reports suggest almost half the Covid-19 deaths (44%) in Maharashtra have been recorded among the Muslim community. This means the proportion of Muslim lives claimed by the virus is well over three times their share (12%) in the state population. According to state officials and experts some of the reasons behind this disproportionate ratio includes Friday prayers in mosques which continued (officially) till 20th March, difficulty in implementing social distancing in areas where the community resides, high population density and poor healthcare facilities. What has been left unsaid is the open flouting of lockdown norms and hostile behavior towards police and health workers in Muslim localities, in part due to rumours circulated among the community about Covid-19 quarantine being a hoax to sterilize or eliminate Muslims.

Earlier a Muslim cleric had issued a veiled threat to the Maharashtra Police not to take action against any Muslim cleric who breaks the lockdown rules as this is the month of Ramzan. Mufti Hujefa Kasmi has said that police action against any Muslim cleric violating the lockdown rules will not be tolerated and could lead to violence.

Even before this, an appeal was made to distribute the 130 crores rupees that are lying unused with the Maulana Azad Minorities Financial Development Corporation (MAMFDC) among Muslims. This appeal has been made by ex-chairman Haji Hyder Azam. Wouldn’t these funds be better utilized if the government purchased kits for health workers and paid them their salaries? And is MAMFDC just there to cater to Muslim needs, or look out for all minorities?

When the entire country in general and Maharashtra in particular is facing rising cases of Covid-19 infections, how fair is it to ask for special privileges? It is for the Muslim community leaders and the country’s policy makers to ask themselves if such demands for Islamic exceptionalism are reasonable.

(Featured Image Source: New Indian Express)

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